Years ago in Durham while attending an evening Ladies Bible Study the verse was read from Ephesians 4:16 “For because of Him the whole body (the church, in all its various parts), closely joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with which it is supplied, when each part [with power adapted to its need] is working properly [in all its functions], grows to full maturity, building itself up in love.” One of my best good friends looked at me and pronounced to me – “you are a ligament”
noun: ligament; plural noun: ligaments
1 a short band of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue that connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint.
▪ a membranous fold that supports an organ and keeps it in position.
▪ archaic a bond of union.
Over the years in various situations I have thought about what she said. I was not particularly flattered when she said it, but through the years as I have considered my role I think she may be right.
As a wife and mother I hold things together to keep them moving as smoothly as possible. I would like to think I am tough, supportive and able to keep things in position.
The archaic meaning – “a bond of union” may not be quite accurate for me. I have kept some things united and sadly (admitting my sin) I have probably tried to drive a wedge between other things.
In my family understanding my role helps. It does not keep me from being resentful or from feeling taken for granted. Understanding my role does not keep me from overstepping boundaries or keeping firm boundaries myself . Yet in times of high frustration, tension and anxiety I can remember that my job is not to fix the situation but to provide support so that those who need to make decisions can do so more easily or smoothly.
But even ligaments get tattered, torn and frayed when pushed beyond their limit. We can only hold on for so long under some weight.
Over the holiday watching family members cycle through grief I felt myself approaching the limit of my ability. I understand that everyone must handle the grief they carry in their own way. I can’t fix that and quite frankly I feel overloaded – with my own grief in one arm and trying to prop up their elbow. An elbow that often – they jerk away.
The love you have for family is unwrapped every time you are in their presence. Even if your reaction to them is annoyance it is probably precipitated by the love you have for them. Every time you serve up their plate at meal time, wash their clothes, shop for Christmas gifts or birthday gifts regardless of the frustration it is fueled by love.
When someone you love dies all that love you feel has no outlet. It cannot be shared with someone else or spent on them because, after all it is the love you have for that person now gone. For a ligament it is tough to hold on to thin air. To reach to grip things that have no substance in the day to day world of earth. There is no place to focus this still active love.Creative activities are great along with other ways of being busy but there is only so much time in a day and finally your own internal ligaments say enough – time to rest.
We that have grief learn to do emotional weight lifting. We pack it up every day and carry it with us even though the package is bursting at the seams most days. Every time we encounter a place, a smell, a sight, a song, a taste that is linked to our loved one it connects as if wired into that package we are carrying. And being the ligament I am – when this happens – I hold tight to both the package and the thing I have encountered. I let all the gears spin as the teeth line up and I recognize and try to honor the privilege of having the connection, the memory.
I do this every day. Every single day.
These inevitable encounters may cause us to choose not to venture out into the world much, to stay close to those things we have built up our emotional weight lifting resistance to. That too is a way of coping.
The verse of the Bible is referring to the church but is it allowed to be inferred to family? If so then I probably have not taken time to recognize the power adapted to my need, nor have appreciated any growth I have sustained for maturity but I understand the building up of itself in love.
The emotional body building that it takes to lift the tangle that is a mix of both love and grief and bittersweet hope – I get that.